Today, after three months living on our farm in Archer, Florida, it dawned on me that I am now, officially, a farmer.
OK, maybe three months doesn’t make me a REAL farmer and sure, it’s true that I sleep long after the alarm and subsequent snooze alerts go off while my daughter Cat gets up to feed and water the horses, but hey…this is a farm and I am living on it.
Knowing that I have to return to my home in New Jersey in just two weeks (hear me weeping???), I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the past few months and how my life—as well as my perspective—have changed.
Let’s start with my “crops.” When we arrived, I immediately began planning my garden. I started my seedlings indoor and transported them outside into little gardens that the hub made for me. I was deligent about watering them for about three weeks. And then that went the way of the snooze button. Nothing was growing and it was really discouraging. Finally, after loving these little plants to life, I saw a light at the end of the tunnel. They survived January and February. It was looking good.
Two nights of frost killed everything.
Or maybe it was the weeds because in Florida, the weeds are really weird. They grow sideways and have big, fat roots that are impossible to dig out.
Next year, I will start my garden LATER and, when there is frost in the forecast, I’ll cover them with newspaper or have heat lamps out.
Thankfully, I have a day job (writing) so I can still feed my family.
The next big eye-opener was the fencing. We only have ten acres (right now…still trying to buy the ten acres next to us). It’s completely fenced. Painting the fencing was a nightmare.
Repairing the fencing was never ending. And the horses seem to delight in kicking, chewing, and crashing through board. Most of the main paddock is painted and looks good. Except for where someone broke through and the hub repaired it with a new board which, frankly, I’m too lazy to paint. It’s a lot of work for one board, you know?
And, if you look at the paddocks from the other side of the farm, well…we all slacked off on that side. I don’t know THOSE neighbors and they almost burned the neighborhood down one day when they decided to pump the water out of their pool with a tractor battery which caught on fire while they napped inside and burned their fencing. Cat saw it and we managed to call the fire department before it crossed the dry grass and burned down OUR property. So, for now, they can look at ugly, unpainted fencing.
The previous tenants (aka the squatters who never paid rent and killed all of our shade trees) started building a barn. I had such high hopes to finish it. Strike 3. Never happened. Enough said.
But I didn’t exactly strike out. I guess in farming you have more than three strikes.
I found one thing that I am good at…love doing…and do it without question each week.
I. LOVE. DRAGGING. FIELDS.
Give me a little zero radius tractor and a home-made drag with a paddock full of horse manure and I’m happy as…well…as a person on a tractor dragging a field.
We have four main paddocks and Cat rotates the horses between them. When she rotates to a new paddock, I’m right behind that last horse leaving with my Big Dog and drag. I could drag fields for hours. It’s like a treasure map, trying to find all of the piles of poop to break down so that the grass grows.
Maybe it’s the challenge. Or maybe it’s the way it smells so earthy. Reminds me a lot of Amish farms. People either love that scent or they don’t. I fall in the former camp, that’s for sure and certain.
Now, if you look at my statistics here, I’m definitely not scoring so well with farming during my first season. But I have a plan for next year, believe you me.
Even more importantly, I have so much respect for farmers. It’s a lot of work. A LOT of work. Whether it’s raising cows for meat and milk production or crops to sell at market, farming is not for the faint of heart. I cannot imagine how the Amish farmers do it all.
So my perspective on life has definitely changed. As we prepared for the inevitable…re-entry into life in Jersey…I know that both Cat and I will have a hard time. People up north are not as friendly and life is much more fast-paced. I will miss having the horses outside my screened in room. I won’t hear them thundering around the paddocks at night or have to nudge Cat awake by the third snooze alert.
But missing life on our little farm is the best part, I suppose. If I didn’t miss it, that would be bad since we are planning on coming back even earlier next year… after Cat’s travel season ends. And when I get back, I will make another attempt at raising little crops, fixing all those fences, and building that barn.
And, best of all, I look forward to it being “a drag”…the horse poop kind, if you know what I mean.